About

Robert O’Byrne is a writer and lecturer specialising in the fine and decorative arts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, among them Luggala Days: The Story of a Guinness House (Cico Books) and The Last Knight: A Tribute to Desmond FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin (Lilliput Press). A former Vice-President of the Irish Georgian Society and trustee of the Alfred Beit Foundation, he is currently a trustee of the Apollo Foundation. Among other work he writes a monthly column for Apollo magazine (http://www.apollo-magazine.com), and also contributes to each issue of the quarterly Irish Arts Review (http://www.irishartsreview.com). All opinions expressed herein on Ireland, her landscape, architecture and artefacts are his own.

385 comments on “About

  1. raymond blair says:

    Dear Sir – thank you for wonderfully informative and attractively presented features – being from Donegal I particularly enjoyed your feature on the Bishops Palace in Raphoe with its clever title, “From Bishops to Bullocks”. I have enjoyed all your articles on historical sites in Donegal and look forward to seeing some more in due course – Raymond Blair, Vice-President, County Donegal Historical Society

    • Brian F Ross-Murphy says:

      Raymond as you are the VP of the Co Donegal Historical Society I wonder what details you have, if any, on Carricknagore House, Killybegs. I know that it was occupied by a Post Captain, Stephen Fovil in 1833 the year he died. It was subsequently occupied by William Barrett his son-in-law and sessional crown solicitor for the County. I believe it was last occupied in 1952 by the Hamilton’s who were related to the original owners. Following this it fell into disrepair. It has recently been purchased by my cousin, Chris Joyce of Killybegs and of the Joyces of Merview, Co Galway. Kind Regards Brian F Ross-Murphy

  2. Cathal Byrne says:

    You may have spotted this already but the painting of Oonagh Guinness by Philip de Laszlo which you described in your (excellent) book on Luggala as being whereabouts unknown since 1995 has turned up at auction at Ahlers & Ogltree Auction Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia (via The Saleroom). $30-50K + fees and it could be yours! Rgds, Cathal

  3. yvonne Bishop says:

    Dear Sir
    I just wanted to subscribe to receive your posts.
    Thank you in advance
    Yvonne Bishop
    Switzerland

  4. BA&CC says:

    Hi,
    We are looking into the possible restoration of St. Brigid’s Hospital Ballinasloe and were wondering if we could use your images and report and any other information you have to support our proposal?
    Warmest regards

  5. Annabel Farrell says:

    Apologies if you already got this, I’m not sure if it went…I was wondering whether a house built in 1870 was a bit too modern?! Slevoir House near Terryglass, Victorian Italianate on the edge of Lough Derg in Tipperary. Australian-owned which must be a bit unusual, and currently lived in and run as an Airbnb by Australians who are friends of the owners. Not the most beautiful house but a wonderful location.

    • Thank you for getting in touch. As you’ll appreciate, everything is rather on hold – not least the opportunity to visit anywhere – so I really can’t comment on the building in question. Perhaps when travel outside a 5km radius is permitted again… Meanwhile, stay well.

    • Vincent Delany says:

      Slevoir seems to be influenced by Queen Victoria’s Osborne House on the Isle ofWight with asymmetrical elements.

  6. Richard Synge says:

    In case Annabel is interested, Slevoir House was once a classic Georgian country house — and home to my great great grandfather, Francis Synge, between 1840 and 1870 — after which it was sold to a General Hickey who rebuilt it in its present Italianate style. The General’s descendants continued there for some time afterwards but it has indeed changed hands in more recent years. The lakeside location is very special.

    • Brendan Farrell says:

      Hello Richard, My wife and I live in part of Glanmore castle which was once the home of Francis Synge. Our drawing room was originally the library which housed a fine collection of books including, Newtons Principia and Darwins origin of the species which I believe proved to be so inspirational to the young J.M. Synge who was a regular visitor to Glanmore.

      Regards

      Brendan Farrell

      • Vincent Delany says:

        General hickey kept a steamboat called the Meta at Slevoir. The steering wheel is now on display at Lough Derg Yacht Club at Dromineer

      • Richard Synge says:

        Dear Brendan,

        Am very interested to know that you live at Glanmore, which I have never visited (but hope one day to be able to!). I should point out there were several Francis Synges over the course of the 19th century, and my ancestor at Slevoir was in fact a nephew of the Francis who built Glanmore. All thanks to Robert O’Byrne for allowing us to share such insights… Richard Synge

      • Brendan Farrell says:

        Hello Richard, Thanks indeed to Robert for indulging this conversation. You may contact me on https://www.brendanjosephfarrell.com/ then perhaps you could visit when conditions permit.
        Glanmore Castle was originally an earlier 17c country house which was subject to gothic embellishments by Francis Johnston who added turrets,bartizans and castellations to the structure which was then rendered in portland cement. Unfortunately due to the indifference of the local council a large part of the building has been lime rendered, a treatment normally associated with medieval castles.

        Regards

        Brendan Farrell

  7. Vincent Delany says:

    In relation to Slevoir house, General Hickey had a fine steam yacht called the Meta which was wrecked on the slipway and quay near the house. The steering wheel of the Meta survives in the current Lough Derg yacht Club (founded in the 1830s).

  8. Denys Breen says:

    Dear Mr O’Byrne, I have just watched the 4 videos on Mount Talbot. Fascinating, and sad. In the mid 1970s my mother attended the auction at neighbouring Clonbrock (since destroyed by fire, sadly). In the pages of a book acquired at the auction we found a copy of the Roscommon Herald dated 1897. It had been kept because it contained an article about a presentation by the Mount Talbot tenants to mark the occasion John Talbot’s arrival at with his new wife. I think you have seen that article, because the drawings of Mr and Mrs Talbot shown in the video appear in that article.

    • Thank you for your message. Yes, I am familiar with the article in question. If you’re interested in reading more about Mount Talbot, and other houses in that part of the country, I recommend a Facebook page called the Landed Estates of County Roscommon, run by Paul Connolly who also produced a very fine illustrated book on the same subject a couple of years ago…

  9. Juliana Park says:

    Dear Mr. O’Byrne, A wholehearted thank you for making available to all this wonderful resource of Irish design history. Your passion for the subject is much appreciated. Greetings from France.

  10. Dear Mr. O’Byrne,

    I was in touch some weeks ago – via FB. I am currently conducting research for an upcoming art film project involving Georgian architecture. This research is supported by two organisations. I was hoping to get in touch.

    Kind regards,
    Mieke

    • Thank you for getting in touch. I did post on my Facebook page some weeks ago that for reasons known only to FB I am unable to read my messages, and therefore asked to be contacted via here, as you have now done so. Please let me know what is the nature of your enquiry?

    • Vincent says:

      Georgian Architecture is too big a subject to take on. You need to focus:
      A focus could include:
      Italian influences on Ireland’s great houses.
      The streetscapes ofGeorgian Ireland.
      Georgian craftsmanship.
      The developers of Georgian Dublin.
      Etc
      If you need any information- perhaps I can be of assistance.
      Vincent Delany FRIAI MA(hist)

  11. Dear Robert, many thanks for your continued interesting articles. I know I mentioned it before but could you do a piece on Kilsaran House, Co.Louth please. I could assist in the later years if you wish as I had a close relation growing up with Mrs. Frida Chester Walsh. Regards, Gareth McMahon

  12. Mairtin D'Alton says:

    Dear Robert. Is it too late to say Happy New Year ? Or at least Good Riddance to the Wretched Old One ? I wanted to ask your expert opinion; in all your years in Damer House, did you ever develop an opinion as to whether the building was originally rendered ? Hope you are well. Looking forward to hearing from you. Regards. Mairtin

    • Dear Mairtin
      Thanks for getting in touch (and for belated HNY greetings, reciprocated). Yes, it is perfectly feasible that the house was at some stage rendered; the unevenness of the stonework suggests this possibility. I don’t know of any investigation that has been undertaken into the matter – does anyone else?

      • Mairtin D'Alton says:

        Dear Robert. I am on the look out for people who might know; I have asked Rr. Andrew Tierney. Do you know if there is a collection of old prints or drawings in Roscrea ? So Far I have found a grim Laurence collection of the house. I am told the walls leak; was that your experience whilst in residence ? Very good to hear from you. Warmest Regards. M

      • Mairtin,
        Apologies for the delay in responding. No, I’m not aware of any prints/drawings of Roscrea: you might try the OPW as it is now responsible for the Damer House? As for living in it, yes it was extremely cold (I remember heavy snow in the winter so everything was frozen) and a certain amount of damp, but not nearly as bad as was the case in other houses where I have spent time…

      • Mairtin D'Alton says:

        Dear Robert. You house guardians are a hardy lot. Magda Loeber also recalled the cold of the year in Castletown. As Maurice Craig said of Mount Ievers; ‘One would endure much to live in such a house. Many thanks for your help.

      • Ah well, I was young in those days. Now these bones need a little more heat…

      • Mairtin D'Alton says:

        You are still young

  13. David Nowlan says:

    Dear Robert,

    I was reading the article about Professor Kevin B Nowlan, who was my first cousin once removed. Great work and it brought back memories… https://theirishaesthete.com/2013/02/06/a-man-of-some-importance/

    David Nowlan

  14. Brendan Dixon says:

    Hello, I wonder would you be able to point me in the direction of information about a house called Seafield that was located just north west of St Helens and north east of Merville in Stillorgan. It seems to have been demolished about 1918 and had been lived in by the Hardys up until then and the Croziers until about 1875 Best wishes with this marvellous site. Brendan

    • Thank you for getting in touch. I’m afraid that I don’t know of any information on the house in question; interestingly, it is not mentioned in Peter Pearson’s ‘Between the Mountains and the Sea’ (1998) which covers this part of the world. The Irish Architectural Archive has information on a number of properties called Seafield, but whether any of these relate to this specific house is unclear; unfortunately, you will have to wait until the present restrictions are lifted and the IAA reopens to investigate. Apologies for not being of greater help…

  15. Michael Keane says:

    Dear Mr O’Byrne, I am currently completing a book on the history of the Crosbies or Talbot-Crosbies of Ardfert Abbey, Co Kerry. I am compiling a few appropriate images for the book and while I have plenty on Ardfert Abbey I would like to include one of Mount Talbot of Co. Roscommon which was one of the Talbot/Talbot-Crosbie estates through the centuries. I note that you had some excellent images of Mount Talbot in the superb ‘The Irish Aesthete’ series (3-8-2019) and I with to ask permission to include one of these in the book, Michael Keane

  16. Sarah Sanderson says:

    Dear Robert,
    I am wondering if you could tell me if Lady Jane Lane/Fisher (of King Charles II infamous exile) is related to Sir George Lane of Lanesborough?

    I am trying to put the pieces together for a project as I am aware the Sir George Lane was a royalist supporter and followed King Charles II into exile.

    Is there anywhere I can get further information on this?

    With many thanks for your dedication to the history of peerages in Ireland.

    Best regards,
    Sarah

    • Thank you for getting in touch. I can’t find any connection between Jane Lane (never Lady Jane Lane, she was not the daughter of an earl) and Sir George Lane, first Viscount Lanesborough. His grandfather, also George Lane, seemingly had come to Ireland in the 16th century as a typical adventurer soldier, but from whence he came I don’t know I’m afraid. Of course, Lane is a fairly common name, so it’s not easy to trace. Apologies, and good luck with your search…

      • Sarah Sanderson says:

        Thank you so much Robert for your quick reply – I genuinely appreciate it.

        Yes, Lane is a common name and I am having a bit of difficulty in tracing some further information regarding it, but I will continue to do so and hopefully find more as I dig deeper.

        With best wishes,
        Sarah

  17. johnhowardstewart8gmailcom says:

    Dear Aesthete,
    Thank you for your blog. You have created something of importance.
    I enjoyed ‘Two Houses,One Mystery’ – and the speculative attribution of Arch Hall to Edward Lovett Pearce citing the stylistic similarities in the garden arches at Arch Hall and Gloster as a link to Pearce. I wonder if you have also considered linking the remains of the garden building at Wardtown to Pearce as further bit of the jigsaw.
    When I last saw it (broken and peeping from a gigantic briar patch) it appeared a palladian brick arch flanked by oculi. The Stillorgan grotto shows Pearce using just this arrangement. This little piece of garden architecture doesn’t yet seem to have made it into the books.
    Best wishes,
    John Stewart.

  18. jenjunebug says:

    I love your blog and the beauty of old Irish houses. I set myself the project of visiting the Section 482 properties when I saw them mentioned in the newspaper in 2019 and it has opened up an Ireland to me which I didn’t know existed. I write a blog about my visits on a website, https://irishhistorichouses.com
    and often mention you and your blog on the site. I’d appreciate any advice you could give me, or if you have any ideas as to how to take the website further to other projects. I wrote to Yvonne Jackson of Failte Ireland for advice or ideas but have not had a reply. I think a tv series about some of the 482 houses would be great! But my friend in a tv production company advises me that funding is always an obstacle to such projects.
    If you know anyone who would be interested in my website, I’d be delighted if you passed it along to them. Best wishes, Jennifer.

    • Thank you for your message. I am aware of your own site and sometimes indeed do look at it. I’m afraid that I would have to write a long essay about how to take things further. One obvious thing – if you haven’t done it already – is to use Instagram (I’m afraid your blog name is already being used there by Historic Houses of Ireland) as it is a good way to draw notice.
      Realistically it is about persistence and perseverance: I’ve been running my site for almost nine years…
      Good luck and apologies for not being able to write further but I am up against several deadlines at present.

  19. Matt Kelly says:

    I am working on a news story about the Ballyturin Ambush (near Gort in Galway) and I am interested in using an image of Ballyturin House as it was, which you used in your article. Would you have any information on the ownership of the image or where I might get permission to use it for television broadcast.

    • Thank you for your message, and my apologies I cannot for the life of me remember where I found that image. Sorry not to be of more help but best of luck with the story about the ambush…

  20. I’m so happy to have found this page … I’m a 17th century follower, and wonder if there is a way to search the site for that information specifically? The other way … reading everything … will take a long time. 9-)

    • Thank you for getting in touch. I’m afraid there’s no direct way to find specific sections relating to the 17th century; as you can see, I’ve already put in lots of tags. However, I think if you googled ‘the irish aesthete 17th century’ or else ‘the irish aesthete confederate’ or other such words, and you might find relevant links. I hope this is of some use…

  21. Stiofan McRath says:

    Greetings, my family have a connection with Carbury Castle, l know that my 4th great grandfather Lt Gilbert Walker was in a skirmish there, it involved Stephen Sparkes, he later married Susannah Allen- my grandmothers dress, gold necklace with broach and her image painted in , plus shoes, letters from my 5th gg father whom was based at Fort Geneva are held at the museum of New Zealand (Te Papa Tongarewa) a beautiful example of Irish history little known about,
    https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/agent/48932, My 4th gg mother was a niece of General Loftus , we descend from the Ormsby-Gore -St George -i think also the Colley families and others https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/56859
    https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/68261
    My 5th GG father Gilbert Walker served with the Dumbartonshire Highland Fencibles he was later serving with the 4th Royal Veterans Battalion at Gibraltar and died there of Yellow fever, my third gg father was working at a London Law firm directly with Charles Dicken’s for about 18 months, my 3 gg father co signed Dickens last will and testament ( Henry-Walker ) https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/1331224
    Stiofan McRath

  22. Ben Winter says:

    I wondered if you knew the whereabouts of an Oak Park, Carlow 1957 auction catalogue?

    • Thanks for getting in touch. Can you send me a reminder next week, and I’ll see if I have anything about this (I’m travelling at present). Meanwhile, you might check the National Library of Ireland (www.nli.ie) to see if a copy of the sale catalogue is there…

    • Brian F Ross-Murphy says:

      Hi Ben, have you tried purcellauctioneers.ie as it would appear that they possibly handled the auction in 1957?

  23. Peter Scanlan says:

    Hi,
    I was wondering if could use some of your information on Nettleville, Co. Cork, for a short article I am doing for our local Kilmurry Museum (Which I have already mentioned in the comments)

    Warmest regards

    Peter Scanlan

  24. James Smith says:

    Dear Robert,
    I have just retired and wish theirishaesthete now sent to my home email address: jamesmithdesign@gmail.com
    Thank you for the continuing informative pleasure of you posts.
    Very best regards,
    James Smith

    • Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately it’s not in my power to join/unjoin anyone. I think you ought to discontinue following me on WordPress, and then re-connect with your new email address. I hope that works.
      Meantime, enjoy your retirement…

  25. Mairtin D'Alton says:

    Dear Robert. Sorry for approaching you this way. The OPW are organising an Information Session at the end of August for the Restoration works currently ongoing to the N Facade of Damer House. If you are interested could you please email me ? Very much looking forward to hearing from you.

  26. Louise Roug says:

    Hello there – I’m writing a historical novel and would love to be in contact as I have some architectural questions I’m hoping you might help me with.

    I realize you have your own urgent deadlines and may not have time. But if you have a moment, I would much appreciate your time. (I’ve tried in vain to find your contacts elsewhere.)

    Best,

    Louise

    • Thanks for getting in touch: are your own deadlines for this urgent, or can it wait for a couple of weeks (I am up against a few time constraints at the moment): might you be able to send me a reminder at the start of September when I would hope to have a little more time?

      • Vincent says:

        If you want some help with your novel, I am a Fellow of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland with a qualification in Historic building conservation, was part owner of Townley Hall in Co Louth and have a masters degree in history. If I can be of assistance with the novel I am happy to help.
        Vincent Delany
        Delanyvincent@gmail.com

  27. Gary White says:

    I am trying to locate the diaries of Charles Cobbe (of Newbridge House) for a research paper on his daughter Frances. You quote from these in your excellent piece on that house’s drawing room. I wonder could you direct me to the source?
    Thank you and thanks for this excellent public access website which I’ve only found but expect to spend much time on in the future.

  28. Renata L. says:

    Dear Robert,

    I am currently researching Irish fashion during the 70s and 80s for a short film documentary and came across your book “After a Fashion” which is fascinating. There are some specifics parts of Irish fashion that I am looking at and thought you would be the best person to help me with your expertise.

    How could I get in touch with you to discuss details about it?

    Best Regards,
    Renata

    • Thank you for getting in touch. I am not in Ireland at present. Perhaps you could get in touch with me about this in a week or so (although I’m not sure how much use I can be to you; it was all a long time ago…)

  29. Renata L. says:

    Dear Robert,

    Hope you are keeping well.

    I just wanted to follow-up with my last message to you about the fashion documentary. Would it be possible to get in touch through email with you? I really think you could be a valuable collaborator to our project and I would like to have the chance to explain in details our film project.

    Best Regards,
    Renata

    • Thanks for getting in touch, and apologies for my tardiness. Unfortunately I am very involved in a number of other projects at the moment, and really have no spare time to give to anything else – certainly not before next year. Again, my apologies and best wishes, Robert O’B

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